February 18, 2011

Double Brainbow!

Ah, the brain: that bifurcated lump of grey matter just gets more and more mysterious, doesn't it? Even though neurologists have effectively combated that old "we only use 10% of our brain" myth, it's also clear that we almost never access or utilize our brain's total potential. In her excellent new biography of Jon Sarkin, Shadows Bright As Glass: The Remarkable Story of One Man's Journey from Brain Trauma to Artistic Triumph, Amy Ellis Nutt describes how a mild-mannered chiropractor, after losing part of his left cerebellum during emergency brain surgery, was transformed into an unpredictable, highly energized, and compulsive artist. In recovery, the right side of his brain began to overcompensate for its incomplete left half, providing an overwhelming creative force. Sarkin was suddenly compelled to tap into a hidden reservoir of artistic talent, and has since produced hundreds of drawings and murals, and one art critic compared his culturally sharp oeuvre to Basquiat. His story raises some big questions about the relationship between the brain and the self; the mind and the soul. And a shameless plug: Sarkin contributed the cover art in the Spring Issue of The Adirondack Review.

Also worth a splurge: Portraits of the Mind: Visualizing the Brain from Antiquity to the 21st Century by Carl E. Schoonover. This book is gorgeous example of how science and art can inform each other, and how visual and linguistic modes of conception rely on complementarity to reach profound understanding. The New York Times calls it "An odyssey through the brain, illustrated by a rainbow." All the way!

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